Regulating Trust: Responses from volunteers

In Regulating Trust – Who Will be on the Vetting Database?, the Manifesto Club reported on draft government Guidance for the upcoming vetting database. Here, volunteers – who will be expected to follow the database rules – respond to the draft Guidance. If you would like to send in a response, email here

Anne Fine, OBE, FRSL

If there is a more shameful, idiotic, irrational or dispiriting document kicking around in government, I’d be astonished. This futile business has already turned Britain into an international laughing stock. It was hard to imagine proposals even more bereft of common sense than those already floated. But here they are.

Mark Timlett – secretary of the Junior 4-Somes golf league, Kent

I have a two-hatted attitude to Child Safeguarding. As a parent of young daughters, I try and give them a free reign, letting them walk alone to the beach, ride their bikes without helmets, and dangle from trees, while as a Junior golf administrator, I have to provide a safe environment for our Junior players. To quote the golf authorities EGU/EWGA, I should ‘dictate safeguarding principles’, something which those same authorities won’t do themselves in their own competitions. They have even suggested that ‘I consult my legal team’ to get clarification on EGU/EWGA guidelines, something of a problem for an organization like ours with an annual income of £350, all of which is allocated to prizes and benefits for our Junior competitors!

It’s not surprising that our sport has seen so many experienced volunteers leave their roles because of the increased bureaucracy, which has led to a rise in the incidents of bad practice by their less-committed replacements. It could be said with some justification that children involved in some sports are now less well safeguarded because of the over-bearing red-tape. This new vetting database, from a government so out-of-touch with reality, will only make things worse.

Grant Hole, former model flying coach

As an ex volunteer instructor in a hobby club I would like to explain why I was compelled to give up instruction. First, Uncertainty. The situation became untenable through the baffling nature of the regulations, it not being clear whether I needed to register as an instructor, or was I just ‘..Sharing my knowledge on a generally ad hoc basis with fellow members.’ Also, if I did need to register then how do I recognise a member of a vulnerable group when they themselves quite plausibly may not recognise themselves as such? Such uncertainty means that volunteer model aircraft coach must register so as to cover every unforeseeable eventuality.

The second reason I resigned, Trust. To what extent do I trust the Independent Safeguarding Authority not to mismanage my data, and to what extent am I confident that mismanagements would be readily resolvable without excessive impact on my life? To assess this I must look to the track record of the Criminal Records Bureau and the implications of any mismanagements they may have been responsible for. I quote from a letter to the editor of the Daily Telegraph, Mon 22nd May 2006, from Roger Helmer MEP for the East Midlands: ‘…Tell that to the 1500 honest folk just given a false criminal record by the Home Office.’ Many of those 1500 found their situation extremely difficult to resolve.

So the uncertainty of the regulations allied to mistrust of the Independent Safeguarding Authority fundamentally altered the partnership between myself and society. I was marshalled into placing self-preservation before social responsibility – I took the line of least resistance and resigned as an instructor. The thing with lines of least resistance are that they are the easy and natural course to follow, and as such the regulations are dissuasive of much and encouraging of very little.

Dr Catherine Scott, Senior Research Fellow, Australian Council for Educational Research

There is a principle of communication in any organisation whereby messages from the top are ‘amplified’ as they go down. This means that, say, a relatively mildly regulatory measure will be over-interpreted as it goes down the organisational chain of command and applied by ‘underlings’ to circumstances and cases never intended by those who formulated it. An example I have recently witnessed is university research ethics committees applying to post graduate student research privacy legislation that was only meant to apply to government agencies and never private individuals in any capacity.

I can see infinite possibilities for the ludicrous vetting legislation to be taken to ever sillier lengths by groups and individuals determined to/fearful of avoid being caught out as too lax and lenient.

In a way one can see the likely over-reaction of these small organisations and groups as the best way forward because the stupid over-application of already gob-smackingly idiotic legislation will hasten its decline into total disrepute.